By Rod Clough
We at HVS have long valued the importance of embracing diversity, celebrating our differences, and building a better consulting team as a result. Exceptional teams do this: embracing, accepting, and understanding these differences to become more deeply connected and effective. When a hotel operations team is similarly understanding and celebratory of differences, guests can feel the difference and often become repeat guests as a result.
Autism awareness is an effort HVS supports by engaging with Autism Double-Checked, an organization that provides education and training about this disability. We encourage you and your hotel operations team to learn more. Beyond the matter of corporate social responsibility, improving awareness in this area can also strengthen a property’s profile in the market as one that is welcoming to all and understanding of challenges that guests and their families may face.
A 20- to 25-Million-Person Market
The size of the market affected by autism is significant. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) puts the number of children impacted by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as 1 in 44. When factoring in parents and siblings, this extrapolates to a market size between 20 and 25 million in the U.S. alone.
According to Autism Double-Checked, per a recent survey, 87% of families in this market aren’t currently taking family vacations. The same group, however, indicated that they would do so if autism-friendly facilities were available. Now that several airlines and airports are embracing autism inclusion, this population is seeking places to stay.
What make this opportunity even more appealing is the fact that this market segment tends to prefer off-season or quieter times when places are less crowded, thereby traveling at times when hotel occupancy levels are at their lowest.
The First Step is Simple
In the past, the number of autism-friendly hotels, autism-friendly airlines, and autism-friendly attractions was close to none. Pet-friendly, yes, but autism-friendly, not a chance. Autism Double-Checked is changing that by training and certifying travel companies at three designated levels of autism-readiness. At each successive level, the degree of commitment to inclusivity becomes greater.
Accessing a market of over 20 million that isn’t currently taking vacations and generally prefers low season travel may seem daunting, but it can be easy. How? A good first step is to connect with the experts at Autism Double-Checked on their website or by phone at (203) 750-0000.
About Autism Double-Checked
Founder Alan Day and his partners have more than 100 years of collective experience in the travel industry. They also have special-needs children and understand firsthand what precautions are necessary to create a safe and enjoyable space for individuals with ASD while away from home.